Long Beach: Sam Schmidt Motorsports qualifying report

VERNAY SETS FASTEST LAP IN LONG BEACH QUALIFING BUT MISSES OUT ON POLE POSITION LONG BEACH, Calif. - J.K. Vernay has not slowed down in his pursuit of victory perfection to start the 2010 season, and qualifying was proof of that on Saturday ...


LONG BEACH, Calif. - J.K. Vernay has not slowed down in his pursuit of victory perfection to start the 2010 season, and qualifying was proof of that on Saturday afternoon on the famed downtown Long Beach street course as late in the session, he was able to lay down the fastest lap in the waning moments and take the pole position away from competitor James Hinchcliffe - sort of.

Officials ruled that the last section of his lap was run under a local yellow, and thus, disallowed his time, even though he was quicker everywhere else. He will have to settle with starting on the front row slotting into second, although he and the team will be gritting their teeth feeling like they have something more to prove.

The session itself was plagued with full course cautions. For example, every time Vernay went onto the track with a new set of tires, he'd be greeted by a full course yellow. It made conditions difficult for drivers to get a chance to fully dial in their cars into the race track.

This affected Pippa Mann the most as she missed part of the morning session and had to play a little catch up getting her car to fully adapt to the course. All weekend, she's shown better than her 2009 performance, and she feels the car is good enough to enable her to have a strong finish on Sunday starting from the 12th position.

Philip Major had a quiet but strong day on the course. He hovered around the top-five the entire qualifying session before having to settle for sixth - his best qualifying result yet in his short Firestone Indy Lights career.

One driver looking to shake the unlucky monkey off his back is James Winslow. Again, he was running competitively in the top-five at the start of the session using old tires, but just as he was about to go out on a new tire run, he had a component fail in the rear of the car. He and the team suspected something in the gearbox broke, as he had no drive to the wheels. Starting from 14th, Winslow knows he has his work cut out for him, but he's confident in his car and crew and looks forward to the challenge that lay ahead.

Sunday's event is at 10:40 a.m. PT and can be viewed live on indycar.com or firestoneindylights.com.


#7 LUCAS SLICK MIST/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay

"It's OK. I have to judge the limit to where I was in the test. Now I'm qualifying, I know what I can do with the car. It's a good thing for tomorrow. It's a good thing for the start, to be in the first row." (About losing fast lap to caution period): "I'm really disappointed because we were really fast today. We had like five or six yellow flags. It was crazy, but a driver into the wall. And each time we came on track with new tires, and there was a yellow. I did only two laps with each set of tires, and it's not enough to do a good lap time. The last lap time, when I did a .4, it was my third lap. It was pretty good. The lap after would have been even better."

#11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann

"This morning started out pretty tough. I was pushing very hard in this morning's warm-up and got into the top-10, but unfortunately the walls here are very tight, and I made a little mistake in brushing one and had to sit out most of the morning session. That probably came back to bite us in qualifying. We've just ping-ponged around the sweet spot of the car. We started out with a bit too much over-steer. We made a change and had too much under-steer. We made another change and went back to too much over-steer. It's really tough to get grip out of the new tires around here. We're not sure why. We elected not to run new tires before qualifying so that we'd have three sets at our disposal, but you never know if that'd be a good call or not. Judging from the times on Friday, we thought that'd be a good call. We thought we'd have a top-10 car in qualifying, but with the way we were ping-ponging around the setup, everybody else got better and we just kind of didn't get an improvement. I also had an incident going off track. My car went into a false neutral, and without the engine braking, I couldn't stop like I wanted and ended up in the tire wall bringing out a full course yellow and costing me my best lap time. A tough session, but on the plus side, our car was good on old tires just as it was on new tires, so hopefully that works out for us heading into the race."

#49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major

"We had our best qualifying session of the year so far. We qualified sixth which is very good. We were kind of on course with what we wanted to do on the track, and we're getting close to where we've needed to be all this time. We're happy with the qualifying result, and now we can look forward to a good race. Hopefully, we have a clean start in the first corner and can look forward to a good finish."

#77 BSS/BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Winslow

"Everything was going well. We were on old tires at the start of the season. We were in fifth on the old tires, and a few people were already on new tires, and we were only .5 off the leader. It was a good start to the session considering the problems we had in practice with over-steer. The car was really good for the start of qualifying. We came into the pits happy with where we were headed putting on new tires, but then we had a problem with the back of the car. We had some gearbox component fail. It had nothing to do with the team; they've done a great job all along. It's just one of those motor racing things. We just didn't get to use any of our tires because of it. Obviously, we're a bit disappointed. We know we've got a good pace though, and we've got to make it happen. We'll be determined to get into the top-five. I'm sure there will be some incidents up front, and we've got to take advantage of everything we can. Our car is quick, I'm feeling comfortable with the track, and so there's no reason why we can't win the hard charger award. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's race."

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt

"A roller-coaster day is an understatement. I'm real proud of the effort that J.K. and his crew put in to get that fastest lap put in, but circumstances out of our control took that away. Still, second is a good starting spot. Philip quietly did a great job to get his best qualifying result of the year. He has a good shot at a top-five tomorrow. What happened with James was a disappointment, as he too was looking fast, but again, it was out of our hands. He should be able to move up. Pippa has shown to be competitive in the top-10 too, and I see no reason why we can't leave the event tomorrow with four cars in the top-10 and hopefully a couple of them fighting for the top step on the podium."

-source: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Pippa Mann , James Hinchcliffe , Phillip Major , James Winslow